Bob Hoffman
Aug 19, 2020

Marketing's stupidest religion

THE AD CONTRARIAN: Every 20 years or so the research industry has to come up with new fresh and mysterious "generational" horseshit to sell to marketing dimwits.

(Shutterstock)
(Shutterstock)

Among all the dumb things that marketers believe, my favorite is the voodoo of generational uniqueness—like Millennials, or Gen Z, or Baby Boomers. These groups are often treated as new species of humans who are profoundly individual and have to be explained to us by our industry's high priests of sociological claptrap.

This idiocy exists because every 20 years or so the research industry has to come up with new fresh and mysterious "generational" horseshit to sell to marketing dimwits. And, of course, we eat this shit up.

As I've been writing for years, there is just as much variation within generations as there is between generations. But marketers, too lazy or too stupid to figure this out, accept the existence of these imaginary consumer segments in order to avoid the difficult and esoteric task of thinking.

Recently, BBH Labs in the UK released a study that wonderfully undermines the silliness. It's called "Puncturing the Paradox: Group Cohesion and the Generational Myth." Read it here. As part of their study, they created something called a "group-cohesion score." This calculates the single-mindedness of a group of people. Presumably people whose beliefs and behaviors are similar will have higher group-cohesion scores.

And, to the surprise of absolutely no one with their head screwed on straight, the high group-cohesion scores among "generational" segments are nowhere to be found. In fact, people who eat nuts every day have a higher group-cohesion score than Millennials. Crossword puzzle doers, and Orangina drinkers have higher group cohesion than Baby Boomers.

As the study concludes, "The truth is that these ‘generations’ are simply random collections of people who share no special connection beyond being born within two decades of each other."


Bob Hoffman is the author of several best-selling books about advertising, a popular international speaker on advertising and marketing, and the creator of 'The Ad Contrarian' newsletter, where this first appeared, and blog. Earlier in his career he was CEO of two independent agencies and the US operation of an international agency.

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